[Note: This is an adaptation of a diary I wrote called "What you probably don't know about Joe Biden." It's part of Biden's story that is not as well known as his work on national security and foreign policy. And I'd say that it tells you a lot about him. I'm old enough to remember coverage of the Biden hearings for the Violence Against Women Act; I don't know if the msm paid attention but the feminist press did.]
I suspect most people know about Biden because of his activities on foreign policy. But there's something he did that is much less known, but is very significant. How significant? Biden called it, "The single, most important legislative accomplishment in my 32-year-old career in the Senate."
So what was did Biden do? Joe Biden is the Senator most responsible for federal policy to combat violence against women. He took on the issue, learned a good deal about it, and got a bill passed under difficult political circumstances. And he has not left this issue alone. He has continued to be a leader in the fight against violence against women.
The first of these bills was the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was part of a much larger crime bill. The bill introduced new provisions against interstate stalking, created grants for state and local programs, and increased funds for training prosecutors and police officers. It also created an office dedicated to these issues within the Department of Justice.
Getting the bill passed was not easy. In 2004, the tenth anniversary of the act, NOW wrote
The feat began in 1990, when Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and then Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., submitted a preliminary proposal to address the issue of violence against women.
Biden brought scores of experts to Capitol Hill to testify about the domestic violence. He worked with many grassroots groups, with lawyers, domestic violence advocates, and with survivors and people close to survivors and victims of domestic violence.
This first step was key. As Biden explained:
In 1990, I wrote legislation called the Violence Against Women Act. I was convinced this might be the most important piece of legislation I had introduced and among the most difficult to turn into law. . . Violence against women would no longer be written off as "she was asking for it" (rape), "sexual miscommunication" (date rape), or "a family matter" (domestic abuse). Once our criminal justice system recognized these as serious & inexcusable crimes, women could stop blaming themselves.
Source: Promises to Keep, by Joe Biden, p.240-245 Jul 31, 2007
Since 1994, the VAWA has been reauthorized twice. Biden has worked with Senator Lugar on the International Violence Against Women Act.
The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), if passed, would for the first time comprehensively incorporate these solutions into all U.S. foreign assistance programs - solutions such as promoting women's economic opportunity, addressing violence against girls in school, and working to change public attitudes. Among other things, the IVAWA would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history. It would require the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict - such as the mass rapes now occuring in the Democratic Republic of Congo - within six months. And by investing in local women's organizations overseas that are succesfully working to reduce violence in their communities, the IVAWA would have a huge impact on reducing poverty - freeing millions of women in poor countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty.
And, via the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act, Biden has also been working to try to make sure women have access to lawyers to help them file for orders of protection.
That's real leadership. He was a pioneer in the federal realm and he's followed through and kept this a priority.
As a life-long feminist, I'm proud that Barack Obama chose Biden as vp.